Rain dampens festival sales in Tamil Nadu

LAST-MINUTE SHOPPING: People make their purchase on the eve of Deepavali in Coimbatore. — Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

LAST-MINUTE SHOPPING: People make their purchase on the eve of Deepavali in Coimbatore. — Photo: S. Siva Saravanan  

Tamil Nadu Bureau

CHENNAI: Rain in several parts of the State and disruption of rail and road transport in many areas have dampened the festival sales this year. But the trade is hoping to make up for lost time thanks to the last minute rush for clothes, crackers and sweets.

Just as sales were moving into top gear, a trough in the Bay resulted in heavy rain in Chennai and other parts of the State. Even on Monday morning, there was a heavy downpour here. This kept the shoppers away.

Attractive bonuses

With the economy doing well and companies handing out attractive bonuses to employees, a shopping spree began in the second week of October itself. Then, the "early birds" were looking for specific brands. After mid-October, the "real shopping began." Almost simultaneously, the Northeast monsoon rains commenced and dampened the mood.

Most stores ran huge advertisement campaigns this season, taking primetime slots on television channels and colourful displays in the print media.

At the end of the season, the garments trade appears to have achieved a "satisfactory level" of sales as people cannot do without new clothes for Deepavali. Similarly, the sweets industry has done rather well, flooding the market with varieties and delicacies. If one is saturated, there is the option of a `gift coupon' that can be presented later and the sweets collected.

Industrial harmony

The industrial belt of Coimbatore symbolised the "spirit of industrial harmony," for a change. There were no strikes or threats of action. With the textile industry and the manufacturing sector doing well, there was no delay in bonus settlements. Even the employees of the National Textile Corporation accepted the bonus without protest. The knitwear capital of the country, Tirupur, saw the disbursement of about Rs. 100 crores as bonus to the more than two lakh employees.

The crackers and fireworks trade took a hit. The pavement stalls and special shops could not function for a week because of the flooding caused by the rain. But the manufacturers are apparently not unduly worried about a 15 to 25 per cent drop in turnover.

Shift in customer taste

The restrictions on use of high decibel fireworks, the accumulated stock and the Bihar elections have had an impact on the fireworks industry in Sivakasi. Though some leading manufacturers reported a nearly 25 per cent drop in nationwide sales, the industry has fared well in Tamil Nadu. A leading manufacturer said the sale of crackers in Delhi had not come down as feared after the bomb blasts there. Against last year's turnover of around Rs. 650 crores, the industry expects to achieve around Rs. 550 crores this year.

Cargo movers and banks have reported a drop in movement of fireworks from Sivakasi. Due to the accumulated stock in retail outlets, manufacturers delayed the dispatch of new stock.

A secondary factor is a shift in consumer preference from crackers to "aerials." Buyers are increasingly going in for colourful aerials unmindful of the cost. Each registered unit has introduced 10 to 15 new varieties in the aerial section. Less noise and more colour is Sivakasi's contribution to this Deepavali.

Direct retailing

The phenomenon of direct retailing has caught up in a big way. Factory-owned retail outlets have been doing brisk sales. The idea behind this, according to A.P. Selvarajan, former president, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers' Association, is to provide authentic goods at around one-third of the maximum retail price printed on the product.

The manufacturers anticipate a last-minute rush for fireworks, which may help clear all stocks. They are pinning their hopes on clearing the "accumulated stocks" in the market so that they can have a "bumper sale" next year.

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